Tracing Luck and Building Solutions

PhD candidate Milan Janosov credits his diverse portfolio of inspirations to the interdisciplinary atmosphere in the Department of Network and Data Science at CEU. His research focuses on quantifying universal patterns in the success of creative individuals, such as scientists, film directors, and DJs, with analysis in the dimensions of skill, luck and collaboration. As he nears the culmination of his PhD, Janosov reflects on the generative incubation of his research, future opportunities, and considerations for incoming network science scholars. 

“It has been really valuable to work with people from that many different backgrounds. In the mix I was able to ask questions I had no idea could be tackled in a scientific way before,” said Janosov, who was born in Budapest. “Working together with computer scientists, psychologists, physicists and historians has been very stimulating. Both our department and the affiliated collaboration network are outstandingly interdisciplinary and highly skilled. I learned a lot of new perspectives from the social sciences alongside technical skills like AI and machine learning, which I think are crucial for world-class data science research,” adds Janosov.  

During his studies at CEU, Janosov extended his research as a visiting scholar in the Social Dynamics team at Bell Labs in Cambridge and the Barabasi Lab at the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University, Boston. In fact, the first time Janosov took an interest in network science during his undergrad years was via the work of Hungarian-born Albert-László Barabási applied in computational biology. 

Another experience that set Janosov on his path was an attraction to “data-driven storytelling.” While he first encountered the concept at the start of his PhD, Janosov had already been in the practice of visually communicating data in this way several years prior.“There's a catchy expression that I think is really on point here, ‘data stories,’ which is also a unique annual data visualization exhibition at CEU. Science doesn't have to look like something done only in a laboratory or solely restricted for academics. I love this broader appeal,” said Janosov. “With well-written data stories, it’s almost like you are reading or watching a nice movie on Netflix, and you only realize at the end that what you've seen or read is actually rigorous science,” he adds. 

At CEU, Janosov was engaged by the opportunity to triangulate aspects of his field, his personal interests and the recent research of colleagues. “The main part of my PhD is to try and quantify the terms of success and how success emerges, as well as how to measure metrics of success and the importance of luck,” he said. In addition, he focuses on network aspects such as the role of collaborations and mentorship in the life and success of star DJs, a project recently published in Scientific Reports by Nature. His research also extends to predictive capacities around certain cultural phenomena. Through data analysis and modeling, Janosov has the capacity to articulate complex social processes, with training in theoretical and biophysics.  

“With the kind of research we do in network and data science I believe we have resources, skills, and finally these days, also the data to make a difference,” he said. “I want to build solutions. I look forward to directly applying things that I've discovered and learned here during my PhD at CEU,” added Janosov. 

With future business plans still in nascent stages and details to be announced soon, Janosov shares his philosophy regarding the potential of network science researchers’ impact on the industry, commenting, “I think a new generation of entrepreneurial researchers is needed and it's time for us to rise up. I think our work as academics extending to the context of real-life problem-solving really matters.”